Saskatchewan is the first western province to lift an eviction ban on residential tenants but it continues to ban evictions of commercial tenants, under legislation that came into effect on June 4.
The residential rental eviction bans were put in place in most of Canada in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the eviction restrictions are in place until the end of August.
However, starting August 4, Saskatchewan’s Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) will begin accepting eviction applications from residential landlords for non-payment of rent.
“When the pandemic began, we wanted to ensure tenants facing hardship as a result of COVID-19 were able to take the necessary social-distancing measures,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan said. “With the success of flattening the curve in Saskatchewan, we believe it’s appropriate to lift the moratorium on non-urgent evictions.”
British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba have all banned residential evictions until August 31, with B.C. also providing a $300 to $500 rental subsidy, paid directly to landlords, for those tenants unable to meet their rent payment.
All four provinces have also banned commercial tenant evictions until August 31. The ban is meant to protect mostly retail tenants, many of which were forced to close temporarily due to the pandemic.
The provincial government’s actions temporarily ban evictions of commercial tenants during the pandemic if the landlords and tenants are eligible for the federal-provincial cost-shared Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program but have not applied.
Not all landlords eligible for this funding are applying, leaving tenants without an option to stay in their current leased commercial space, according to a statement from the Saskatchewan government. The CECRA program runs until August 31, 2020.
But some tenants have not applied for CECRA, realtors and industry groups say, because it is onerous, time consuming and does not take into account private arrangements already in place.
“Many landlords we deal with tried to get ahead of unpaid rentals by offering deferrals allowing tenants to pay back rent interest free over an extended period of time,” noted Kelly Macsymic of ICR Commercial Real Estate in Saskatoon.
“This is a good solution for all parties, but the landlord is still left holding the empty bag if the tenant permanently closes their doors.”
“An eviction ban drives an unnecessary wedge between tenants and property owners, most of whom were working on amending agreements to support tenants through COVID before government got involved,” added Anand Pye, executive director of NAIOP Edmonton.